OAKLAND -- A California agency on Thursday has cleared the way for the Oakland Athletics to continue planning a $12 billion waterfront ballpark project.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted 23 to 2 to reclassify a 56-acre terminal at the Port of Oakland as a mixed-use area where a new ballpark could be built. The vote is the first in a series of legal hurdles the team would have to overcome before it gets permission to break ground for the project.
"Well, it was a do or die vote," A's president Dave Kaval told KPIX in an interview shortly after the vote. "If we would have lost, it would have been over and our efforts in Oakland would have been extinguished. To get such a positive 23-2 yes vote, to move to the next phase and give us a chance at the final approval this year is just a great accomplishment."
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff celebrated the decision, saying in part, "Today's vote moves Oakland toward a more prosperous future. Our city has historically been overlooked for major economic development but, today, that story about Oakland changes."
"We will continue to work closely with our community to bring this bold vision into a beautiful reality and keep our A's rooted in Oakland for generations to come," the mayor went on to say.
The commission followed the recommendation of its staff, which found the team demonstrated removing the terminal from port use "would not detract from the region's capability to handle the projected growth in cargo."'
Critics say the terminal site should not be used for private development and the A's should build a new ballpark on the Coliseum site without tax-payer funding.
Oakland city council member Noel Gallo wants the issue to go on the November ballot and the council is expected to consider that proposal at its meeting next Tuesday.
"(Voters) want a voice. They want to have an advisory say in their support or no support of Howard Terminal," Gallo said.
The Athletics have also been working on plans to relocate to Nevada and find a spot for a new stadium in Las Vegas.
Last year, the Oakland City Council approved preliminary terms for the project but A's president Dave Kaval said the financial terms didn't work for the team. Kaval said the team was proceeding with "parallel paths," planning new ballparks in Oakland and Las Vegas.
The A's proposal includes a $1 billion privately financed 35,000-seat waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal, which is currently being used as overflow parking for containers and trucks. The project also would include 3,000 residential units, office and retail space, hotel rooms and an indoor performance center.
"To move to the next phase and give us a chance at the final approval this year is just a great accomplishment," Kaval told KPIX.
The team's lease at the aging RingCentral Coliseum runs through 2024. The league has said rebuilding at the current location is not a viable option. In May, Major League Baseball instructed Oakland's brass to explore relocation options if no ballpark agreement could be reached.
The A's are the last professional franchise remaining in Oakland after the NBA's Golden State Warriors relocated to San Francisco and the NFL's Raiders to Las Vegas in recent years. The defections weigh heavily on the Bay Area city of roughly 400,000 people, some of whom pleaded with the council Thursday to work harder to keep the team and accompanying coliseum jobs.
Max Darrow and Katie Nielsen contributed to this report
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